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Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies pres.

EIHS Lecture: The Labors of Human Nurture: Breastfeeding for Love or Money in Brazil, 1899-1960

Victoria Langland, University of Michigan

What kind of labor is breastfeeding? How have societies accorded value to those who undertake this potentially lifesaving work? By situating breastfeeding within the historiography of carework, this talk will address these questions, examining efforts directed at breastfeeding, wet nursing, and human milk donation in Brazil in the first half of the twentieth century. If Brazilian health officials in this period agreed that human milk was critical for infant survival, they did not see the efforts of all nursing women as equally valuable. Meanwhile many nursing women challenged these ideas, demanding recognition of their contributions.

Victoria Langland is Associate Professor in the Departments of History and Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Speaking of Flowers: Student Movements and the Making and Remembering of 1968 in Military Brazil (Duke University Press, 2013) and the co-editor of The Brazil Reader: History, Culture, Politics, 2nd edition, (Duke University Press, 2019), and Monumentos, Memoriales y Marcas Territoriales (Siglo XXI, 2003). Langland's current book project is a history of breastfeeding, wet-nursing and human milk banking in Brazil that looks at how public policies, national and transnational breastfeeding advocacy, and the actions of breastfeeding women have transformed understandings and practices about infant nutrition and women’s roles over time.

Free and open to the public.

This event is part of the Thursday Series of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg.

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